Domingos João Pedro Bernardo, Luanda (Angola) - I have seen three dead people: my father and two of my sisters. They all died of diseases in the hospital. After they died they were brought to our home where they were laid on the bed. Occasionally this practice can be observed in Angola: if a person dies, they are brought back home for a couple of hours, and a clergyman is usually present. Afterwards I also saw them lying in the coffin.
Mukhabbat Kamalova, Nukus (Karakalpakistan) - I have seen 4 dead people so far in my life: two relatives (my father and my grandmother), and two acquaintances. I saw my father when he was brought to our house dead. On the 18th of February 2005, he suddenly collapsed and died due to heart problems after visiting relatives, at the age of 57. When my grandmother died I was present in the same room. I had a very close relationship with her, I grew up with her, she advised me in all matters and was closer to me than my mother. We knew that she was dying, she was 85 years old. She was aware that she was dying. Until the end we spoke with her about it and we agreed on communicating with signs in case she would no longer be able to speak. Although I understood very well the relief her death would bring her, it was very hard to see her dying. The two dead acquaintances (a Russian, a Korean, both Christians) I saw during the funeral services that I was invited to. They were laid out in open coffins, beautifully dressed and made up, like living people. Depending on one’s wishes one could approach the coffin to say goodbye.
A photo of my deceased grandmother in my apartment.
A photo of my deceased grandmother in my apartment.
Andrea Gleiniger, Zurich / Berlin (Switzerland / Germany) - So far I have only seen my paternal grandmother being laid out, but only from a distance and behind a glass pane. This, however, was more than thirty years ago.
Rajneesh Yadav, Bhopal (India) - I think I have seen around 40 dead people so far. Mostly, I saw dead people while on the road or while I was going somewhere, when people were taking the dead body for cremation or burial. I also saw two ceremonies. The first was when my grandfather died and we went to a place near the Ganga River for cremation. The second time I attended when one of my relatives passed away. In my society, children and women do not go to the cremation ceremony.
Rafael Hernández Espinosa, Texcoco (Mexico) - I have seen some dead people throughout my life. I do not know exactly how many, but probably more than 20, including relatives, injured people on the street or even theft victims murdered. I have also seen dead people depicted in the print media, especially in a magazine called ‘Alarma’ or in other newspapers that are known for being too graphic.
Veton Rruka, Prizren (Kosova) - I have seen approximately 10 dead people so far. Most of them I saw during the procedure of washing the bodies of my parents and my relatives which is mandatory according to my religion. The washing of dead bodies is mainly done by competent persons appointed by the Islamic community association in our town. I have seen only male dead bodies during the washing because according to our Muslim religion we are not allowed to watch the washing of female dead bodies.
Domingos João Pedro Bernardo, Luanda (Angola) - If a person dies, it is common in Angola to wear black. Depending how closely one is related to the deceased person, but also depending on the region one lives in, this may take up to a year. Angola is a very multicultural country; the different regions and their respective practices are quite varied.
Mukhabbat Kamalova, Nukus (Karakalpakistan) - When someone dies we grieve at home. On certain days (birthday; anniversary of someone’s death; Memorial Day, i.e.a national holiday) we go to the cemetery and look after the grave of the respective person. We also pray there.
Andrea Gleiniger, Zurich / Berlin (Switzerland / Germany) - In a rather introverted and secluded manner, by myself. Mourning is neither tied to dates nor special arrangements, but, rather, is situational and personal. Funerals on the one hand still create a situation that touches emotionally, yet on the other hand they can create a moment of communal mourning. The actual moment of mourning, however, for me takes place behind closed doors. In the Western world of today, mourning rituals largely have to be made up by oneself.
Rajneesh Yadav, Bhopal (India) - We generally mourn at home. It begins immediately after the cremation of the body and ends on the morning of the 13th day. Hinduism prohibits excessive mourning or lamentation upon death, as this could hinder the passage of the departed soul towards its journey ahead. As mourners will not help the dead in this world, the relatives should not weep, but perform the obsequies to the best of their power. Traditionally, the body is cremated within 24 hours after death; however, cremations are not held between sunset and sunrise. Immediately after death, an oil lamp is lit near the deceased and this lamp is kept burning for 3 days. Hinduism associates death with ritual impurity for the immediate blood family of the deceased, hence during these mourning days the immediate blood family must not perform any religious ceremonies, must not visit temples or other sacred places, must not serve the sages (holy men), must not give alms, must not read or recite from the sacred scriptures, nor can they attend social events such as marriages, parties, etc. The family of the deceased is not expected to serve any food or drink to visiting guests. It is customary that the visiting guests do not eat or drink in the house where the death has occurred. The family in mourning is required to bath twice a day, eat a single simple vegetarian meal, and try to cope with their loss. On the day on which the death has occurred, the family does not cook; hence usually close family and friends will provide food. The mourning family does not engage in any form of entertainment. White clothing (the colour of purity) is the colour of mourning, which is why many will wear white during the mourning period. The male members of the family do not cut their hair or shave and the female members of the family do not wash their hair until the 10th day after the death. On the morning of the 10th day, all male members of the family shave and cut their hair, and female members wash their hair. On the morning of the thirteenth day, a ceremony (‘shraddha’) is performed. The main ceremony involves a fire sacrifice, in which offerings are given to the ancestors and the gods, to ensure that the deceased has a peaceful afterlife. Typically after the ceremony, the family cleans and washes all the idols in the family shrine. Flowers, fruits, water, and purified food are offered to the gods. Then, the family breaks the period of mourning and returns to daily life.
Rafael Hernández Espinosa, Texcoco (Mexico) - Personally, I do not have the habit of mourning publicly, as expressed in clothing, for example. It was not a fostered habit in my family. Mourning, in my practice, is an inner feeling that is normally reflected in a reflective mood and sadness, avoiding the festive mood, but that only lasts for a few days.
Veton Rruka, Prizren (Kosova) - In the case that death happens within the close family, we mourn for six days up to one year. In rural areas women mostly wear black dresses, while in urban areas dressing with black clothes is no longer practiced. Close family members do not attend parties where entertainment and music takes place. Once the year-period has passed, life continues as usual.
What formal commemorative acts for the dead exist in your cultural/religious circles? What significance do they have for you?
Domingos João Pedro Bernardo, Luanda (Angola) - Yes, there are. The importance of these funeral ceremonies is that one should remember the fact that we are all mortal and that one day we will meet the same fate. They also remind us that life is short and unpredictable. During these ceremonies there are readings that are based on the Christian funeral liturgy, as well as songs and melancholic hymns which are recited in the church by the pastor, or by someone else, who had been chosen for that purpose. They last one to two hours, which the mourning family, friends and acquaintances spend together.
Mukhabbat Kamalova, Nukus (Karakalpakistan) - Traditionally, Karakalpaks, a Central Asian Turk people that belongs to Sunni Islam, were semi-nomads. They follow a specific rule: after death, the deceased should stay in their house for 3 days. The reasons for this are of a historical nature, since in earlier times the distances between the villages were larger and except for donkeys and horses there were no means of transportation. Today the distances are still large, but the means of transportation and communication have improved. Nevertheless, this 3-day period of mourning has remained a traditional act. Yet, depending on the situation, the time may also be shortened. The female relatives of the deceased person (mother, aunts, daughters, sisters, cousins) gather in his or her house and sit in a circle in a separate room. They lament loudly. The family is obliged to cater for the mourning guests. It is supported by all neighbours, who host some of the guests and serve them food. The number of guests in dependent on how many people the deceased had known during lifetime. It is possible that up to 1,000 guests attend the funeral service. If the person who dies is more than 80 years old, his/her clothes are hung up in the room in which the women are mourning, and after the funeral ceremony they are distributed to their relatives. The funeral ceremony is always held in the morning. Around noon, the deceased person is washed, wrapped in white cloth and placed on a ladder. It is not allowed to cry during the ablution. Before the body is brought to the cemetery, all guests gather on the street and say goodbye to the deceased while high Islamic dignitaries read from the Koran. Afterwards the body is brought to the cemetery, the ladder carried by close male relatives or being placed in the car. The men accompany the body to the cemetery. The procedure of the ceremony is repeated after 40 days, after 100 days, and again after one year. The anniversary of the death is celebrated in a fashion similar to the funeral ceremony. Furthermore, on the birthday or the anniversary of the death, additional commemorative celebrations are organised for the relatives of the deceased, during which Islamic dignitaries read long passages from the Koran. On the national Memorial day, 9th of May, all Karakalpaks visit their relatives’ graves. They take care of the graves and bring ‘Baursak’ (fried dough) for the Mullah that administers the cemetery. For me, all these commemoration days are very important. They help me to overcome the grief for the deceased. I then have the feeling that I am not alone with my grief because I feel the support of all those whose participate in the memorial service.
Andrea Gleiniger, Zurich / Berlin (Switzerland / Germany) - Official memorial days like the ‘National Day of Mourning’, a day to remember the victims of war from all nations, do not bother me. I am not integrated in such culture or tradition respectively and therefore only know little about it. Lighting candles (death candles) and lying of wreaths are part of it. Also within the family the commemoration is rather situational and individual.
Rajneesh Yadav, Bhopal (India) - There are some commemorative acts in my religion: 1) First Memorial: On the 3rd, 5th, 7th, or 9th day, relatives gather for a meal of the deceased’s favourite foods. A portion is offered before his photo and later ceremonially left at an abandoned place, along with some lit camphor. Customs for this period are varied. Some offer ‘pinda’ (rice balls) daily for 9 days. 2) 31st Day Memorial: On the 31st day, a memorial service is held. In some traditions, it is a repetition of the funeral rites. At home, everyone participates in thoroughly cleaning the house. A priest purifies the home and performs the ‘sapindikarana’ ritual, making one large ‘pinda’ (representing the deceased) and 3 small, representing the father, grandfather and great-grandfather. The large ball is cut in 3 pieces and joined with the small ‘pindas’ to ritually unite the soul with the ancestors in the next world. The ‘pindas’ are fed to the crows, to a cow, or thrown into a river for the fish. Some perform this rite on the 11th day after cremation, others perform it twice, on the 31st day (or 11th, 15th, etc.) and after one year. Once the first ‘sapindikarana’ is completed, the ritual impurity ends. Monthly repetition is also common for one year. 3) One-Year Memorial: At the yearly anniversary of the death (according to the moon calendar), a priest conducts the ‘shraddha’ rites in the home, offering ‘pinda’ to the ancestors. This ceremony is done yearly as long as the sons of the deceased are alive (or for a specified period). It is now common in India to observe ‘shraddha’ for ancestors just prior to the yearly ‘navaratri’ festival. This time is also appropriate for cases where the day of death is unknown.
Rafael Hernández Espinosa, Texcoco (Mexico) - There are the ‘festivities’ of the Day of the Dead, which actually last two days, the 1st and 2nd of November, held throughout the country. On day one, dead children are celebrated and on day two, all the dead are celebrated. Rituals retake the belief that on these days the dead return to the world to visit their loved ones at home. The family prepares a feast called ‘offering’ at their home, which contains traditional food and drinks that the dead used to like, as well as flowers, candles, religious images and photographs of the dead person. These offerings are also made in the cemeteries. Everything takes place in a festive and nostalgic atmosphere, from preparing food, mainly bread for the dead, until the end of the second day, when families eat what is on the altar or distribute it among friends and relatives. For me this is one of the most important traditions of my culture and my country because it contains very representative elements of pre-hispanic culture combined with colonial culture. It is a well-established practice in my family and I have much appreciation for it.
Veton Rruka, Prizren (Kosova) - During the first 3 days, the family opens the house for male and female visitors separately. The reception for male guests takes place at a close neighbour’s house in order to avoid meetings with female visitors, while the reception for female visitors takes place in the deceased person’s house. Friends, relatives, and so forth, come to express their condolences to the family. After 7 days have passed, the family organizes a ceremony called ‘Mevlud’ which includes a reading of the Quran, and, in addition, dinner or lunch is served for the participating close relatives and friends. This ceremony is conducted either for men or women, depending on the gender of the deceased. In most cases, if the deceased person was a man, the ceremony participants are to be male, and vice versa. The same ceremony is organized after 40 days have passed, and again after one year. These ceremonies are led by the authoritative household and have a greater meaning: Families commemorate the deceased person while the Imam reads the Quran to feed the soul of the deceased, and all pray to God to reward the soul of the deceased with heaven.
Domingos João Pedro Bernardo, Luanda (Angola) - Burials with coffins are the rule. There are also cremations with urns, but that is rather modern. I wish to be buried.
Mukhabbat Kamalova, Nukus (Karakalpakistan) - I wish to have a burial, and to have a grave that my children may go to in order to commemorate me.
Andrea Gleiniger, Zurich / Berlin (Switzerland / Germany) - Burial and cremation are the most common practices. More individualised and at the same time more anonymous funeral practices are becoming increasingly important, as, for example, natural burials and more or less anonymous communal graves. The latter appeals to me. If I were a bereaved I would however find it important to have a specific place I could visit, even though it would not necessarily have to carry a mark with a name on it. I like it if such places are close to nature.
Rajneesh Yadav, Bhopal (India) - I am a Hindu and we perform cremation after death. I want a simple funeral, not so many traditional ceremonies to be performed. I do not want my ashes to be scattered in rivers as I think it pollutes the rivers. I would like my family to scatter my ashes into the agricultural land in my village where I was born. They can also keep it in a bottle of glass or something and keep it in the house or somewhere else. Traditionally, all Hindus except babies, children, and saints are cremated. The dead bodies of babies, children, and saints are buried. The reason for the body of an adult to be cremated is that the soul longs to be attached to the body. It refuses to leave the body as it thinks there is still hope that the body will resume ‘action’ once again. Hence as an attempt to severe ties with the body, it is cremated/burnt. Seeing the body burning, the soul decides that it can no longer go back to its form and hence decides to ‘move on’. The concept of attachment is usually devoid in infants, kids, and saints. They are unassuming and innocent. There is no ego − hence no ‘I’, and their bodies are therefore not cremated. However, there is a need to dispose the body as it may become a fodder for jackals, dogs, and vultures, which is disrespectful to the body. Hence the burial.
Rafael Hernández Espinosa, Texcoco (Mexico) - In my community and in my country in general it is accustomed to hold a wake for the deceased for one night in company of relatives and people close to them. Candles are lit and religious prayers are performed. The next day the body is carried to the church, where a mass is performed, but not always. In any case the body is then carried to the cemetery, traditionally by foot when it is close by. Usually the body is buried in the ground, although there are also other kinds of tombs, like some that have the shape of a drawer, for example. The practice of cremation is also popular, but only in higher-income sectors, not among the middle and lower classes. It is customary on some occasions to bury the dead with traditional music, which is usually a wish that people express for their own funeral. Personally, I have not thought much about my own funeral or the way it should be held, but I think I am not worried about it. A traditional funeral, a grave in the yard, would be enough.
Veton Rruka, Prizren (Kosova) - In my society, no matter which religion a person belongs to (Muslim, Catholic or Orthodox), burial funerals are common. In very specific cases, or let’s say in very rare cases, cremations are done.
Domingos João Pedro Bernardo, Luanda (Angola) - They hold the funeral service at church. How it is performed exactly depends on the respective region and religion; in Angola there are Protestants and Catholics. But basically, the dignitaries’ responsibility is to hold the funeral services and to perform rituals which is indeed a form of farewell to the deceased. They also have the task of comforting the bereaved.
Mukhabbat Kamalova, Nukus (Karakalpakistan) - They play an important role. Without religious dignitaries, burials and commemoration days or celebrations can not take place.
Andrea Gleiniger, Zurich / Berlin (Switzerland / Germany) - Generally they play an important role, even if in most cases only for formal reasons. That means that it is still important to institutionally maintain religious rituals and to accompany them with religious dignitaries, even if the religious belief is absent or wavering. For me, personally, they do not play any role. But as long as there is a lack of alternative, convincing forms, they surely do give solace.
Rajneesh Yadav, Bhopal (India) - We are a deeply religious society or at least we claim to be. Religion touches every aspect of our life and funeral practices are no exception. Religious dignitaries, as representatives of religion, perform or supervise all the rituals related to funerals; they administer holy verses from the sacred text. What brings religious dignitaries into death rituals is the deep-seated belief in life after death. It is the belief that while this life is ephemeral, the life hereafter is eternal and death is a journey towards that eternal life, towards the attainment of salvation or ‘moksha’. Religious dignitaries play the role of some sort of facilitator for that all-important journey.
Rafael Hernández Espinosa, Texcoco (Mexico) - The priests have a very important role in the funeral because they are the ones who give words of encouragement and condolence to the relatives and the people close to the deceased. These words have an important weight because somehow they represent the most authorized voice to talk and interpret God’s voice to people, which is something that has a strong outlook in the way of seeing the world in this highly religious society.
Veton Rruka, Prizren (Kosova) - For Muslims, but also for Catholics and Orthodox, religious leaders, that means a priest, imam, etc., play a leading role at funerals. They read their obligatory prayers, and in exceptional cases they pass the word to one of the participants of the funeral to let them say a few last words for the deceased.
In your culture/religious circle, does a prevailing concept of a ‘life after death’ exist? Do you share these views?
Domingos João Pedro Bernardo, Luanda (Angola) - In Angola people believe in life after death; I share that belief.
Mukhabbat Kamalova, Nukus (Karakalpakistan) - We believe that after death a person goes to either paradise or hell. However, we are not as strictly Islamic as other Islamic countries. The Soviet Union has certainly left its traces; as a poet once put it: ‘We are half Muslims, half Atheists, the Koran in one hand, a bottle of wine in the other.’ The notion of life after death here comprises the view that good deeds done during one’s lifetime are a ticket to paradise. I am a bit sceptical in this respect because I think that good deeds should be done for their own sake and not for the fear of hell or in view of paradise. I personally believe that a person only dies physically, but that the soul stays alive. Yet I say that very cautiously, because I might change my mind on the matter again.
Andrea Gleiniger, Zurich / Berlin (Switzerland / Germany) - In the secularized Western European culture that I live in, such concepts are rather personal, even though religious affiliations certainly do play a role. Nevertheless, the wish for a kind of transcendence in the face of the profanity of life is increasing again.
Rajneesh Yadav, Bhopal (India) - Most Hindus believe in the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, which is called ‘samsara’ or the doctrine of rebirth. ‘Samsara’ is also known as the theory of reincarnation or of transmigration of the soul. This doctrine is considered to be a basic tenet of Hinduism. According to the doctrine of rebirth, differences between individuals, even at the time of their birth, are due to their past ‘karma’, i.e. actions done in the past life. For example, if a child is born healthy while another one is disabled or blind, the differences are attributed to their deeds in their previous life. As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones. In Hinduism, the belief is that the body is but a shell, while the soul inside is immutable and indestructible and takes on different forms of life in a cycle of birth and death. The end of this cycle is called ‘mukti’ (salvation) and merging finally with God is ‘moksha’ or salvation. According to the ‘Garuda Purana’ (a book which deals with what happens to a person after death), a soul after leaving the body, travels through a very long and dark tunnel towards the South. This is why an oil lamp is lit and kept beside the head of the corpse, to light the dark tunnel and allow the soul to travel comfortably. The soul, called ‘atman’, leaves the body and reincarnates itself according to the deeds or karma performed by the person in their last life. Re-birth would be in the form of animals or other lower creatures if one performed bad ‘karmas’, but in human form in a good family with a joyous lifetime if the person was good in their last life. In between two lifes, a human is also required to either face punishment for bad ‘karmas’ in ‘naraka’ or hell, or enjoy the good ‘karmas’ in ‘svarga’, or heaven, for good deeds. Whenever we see a dead body, we talk about life after death. Whenever we see someone who died very badly or accidentally, we think that this individual did bad things in a previous life and therefore has to suffer a bad demise. We do not share these views generally or in day-to-day life, but when we see someone having a very good life, having much wealth and money, or someone having a very hard life with diseases and pain, we say something like it is the result of their previous life.
Rafael Hernández Espinosa, Texcoco (Mexico) - The prevailing view is that there is life beyond death, which is mainly in line with the doctrine of the Catholic religion. At the time of death, it is said, the person is judged by God over all the acts carried out in life and then it is decided whether the eternal existence will be in heaven or hell, where people would meet again with acquaintances or loved ones. Personally I do not agree with this idea, for I am not a practitioner of this religion nor a believer in its vision of the afterlife.
Veton Rruka, Prizren (Kosova) - As it is common in my religion and culture, I believe in resurrection after death and in a reward or punishment for one’s deeds according to God’s judgment on the Day of Resurrection. I believe in God’s decision, in reward and punishment, in heaven and hell.
Domingos João Pedro Bernardo, Luanda (Angola) - I want to die without being sick and without having to spend a lot of money on curing a disease. In addition, I want to die here in Luanda.
Mukhabbat Kamalova, Nukus (Karakalpakistan) - I want to die only in old age, I want it to be quick, and I do not want to have to suffer for a long time. I would like to die at home, surrounded by my family.
Andrea Gleiniger, Zurich / Berlin (Switzerland / Germany) - I have given less thought about where and how I would like to die than about where not and how not: not on the asphalt, after an accident; not during a terror attack; not due to an armed conflict, i.e. due to (abrupt) use of violence (torture and the like); etc. I wish to die in a mental state in which I – as they say – have found and made peace with myself and my life, and where I am able to easily say goodbye because I have the feeling that a circle is closing, and that something meaningful is accomplished… It is this desired state that I would like to reach, but will I succeed? I am working on it; a fact which does presuppose a certain – and over the years growing – awareness of the finiteness of one’s own life.
Rajneesh Yadav, Bhopal (India) - I would rather die in my sleep and just not wake up or in a peaceful way where I would have no idea of it coming. I do not want to suffer for a long time. I think dying with loved ones around could be nice except I would not want to see everyone sad around me. I would not want to cause them grief.
Rafael Hernández Espinosa, Texcoco (Mexico) - This is an issue that has often been present throughout my life, although I have not reached any conclusions about it. The truth is that I do not think I am ready for it, but I guess I would like to die in a state of unconsciousness, no matter the age. However, I would not like to live through sufferings due to health issues or to make others uncomfortable by depending on them.
Veton Rruka, Prizren (Kosova) - I would like to die an easy death, without pain and sorrow, particularly in my homeland, close to my family.
Domingos João Pedro Bernardo, Luanda (Angola) - I've never done it and it would not do it.
Mukhabbat Kamalova, Nukus (Karakalpakistan) - No, I would not do that. I think it is not morally right.
Andrea Gleiniger, Zurich / Berlin (Switzerland / Germany) - No, I have not. I could imagine to do it if I was in the right state of mind. Yet I would not necessarily have the intent to do so.
Rajneesh Yadav, Bhopal (India) - I have never photographed a beloved dead person, but we hired a photographer to take photos of my dead grandfather (see photo). Generally, people hire a photographer to take photos. I would like to take a photograph in the future.
Rafael Hernández Espinosa, Texcoco (Mexico) - I have not yet photographed any dead relatives. In my family and social circle it is not customary to do so, but I would do it to preserve the memory of a loved one in the last moments of proximity.
A photo of deceased friends/family in my apartment.
A photo of deceased friends/family in my apartment.
Veton Rruka, Prizren (Kosova) - I never did it and would never do it because I wish to keep a memory of the person being alive and in good appearance.
Photo left: There I put the photo album showing pictures of my deceased sister, who died 2006 in a car accident.
Photo right: My deceased sister Elvan.
Photo left: There I put the photo album showing pictures of my deceased sister, who died 2006 in a car accident.
Photo right: My deceased sister Elvan.
Domingos João Pedro Bernardo, Luanda (Angola) - That depends, inter alia, on the degree of relation. It may take two or three days; if a spouse, husband or parent dies, however, it may take up to seven days. During that time, one stays at home, doesn’t work, and rests. After all, this phase is – also due to the funeral – emotional and upsetting.
Mukhabbat Kamalova, Nukus (Karakalpakistan) - The person may stay away from work for 3 days without the permission of the employer. It is a kind of unofficial agreement.
Andrea Gleiniger, Zurich / Berlin (Switzerland / Germany) - I do not know. I think not for very long, not to say not at all, or only as long as is necessary with regard to the funeral.
Rajneesh Yadav, Bhopal (India) - It depends on the sector the person is working with and how far he/she is from their parent. Generally, people stay away from work for 15 to 16 days, or 2 to 3 days longer than the mourning period (13 days). If a person is in a government job, he/she can stay away from work for 15 to 20 days. If a person is in a private job, he/she would have to return to work soon, otherwise he/she would miss payments for the days of absence. In the private field, companies give less leave to the employees. It also depends on how far away from the dead person one lives. If one lives very far away, one will take off from work for a longer time than if one lives with the parent. Also, when a parent dies, people do not care about work. In general, the loss of a parent is a very, very big loss for a person as far as I think and it is a kind of shock. It takes a very long time for a person to return to a normal life and get out of grief and mourning.
Rafael Hernández Espinosa, Texcoco (Mexico) - Usually for a day, the day of the funeral.
Veton Rruka, Prizren (Kosova) - He/she will stay away from work for 3 working days.
Domingos João Pedro Bernardo, Luanda (Angola) - Yes, I think that’s very important. It is a difficult topic that is not often talked about. Although that precisely would be very important. I would therefore greatly welcome of a more open culture of discussion about death.
Andrea Gleiniger, Zurich / Berlin (Switzerland / Germany) - Yes, because death and dying, although the topics are omnipresent in the media, are very distant to us. When death occurs we are prepared only poorly or not at all.
Rajneesh Yadav, Bhopal (India) - Generally, we avoid talking about death. Affinity to topics related to death and dying is construed as a sign of abnormality, a symptom of a diseased mind. If you talk about death, you have either suicidal or homicidal tendencies, you have no zest for life and are desperate to die. The only exception are hyper-religious people who keep reminding themselves of the impending death to keep them from going astray and to lead a pure, austere, and virtuous life. Now the questions are can we talk of death normally without being clubbed in either of those categories, what purpose does it serve, and what do we expect to get out of it? Yes, we should talk about death more often than we actually do and it will not necessarily be pathological or hyper-religious and it may have a salutary and sobering effect on our life. It will teach us to value more the life of others as well as our own life and it will inspire us to make something really meaningful of it.
Rafael Hernández Espinosa, Texcoco (Mexico) - No, I think that in the Mexican society enough attention is paid to this topic, especially in religious terms and in the media, in sensationalist news sections.
Veton Rruka, Prizren (Kosova) - I do not think that we should speak more about death and dying because with doing so we would create excitement and unpleasant emotions.
Mukhabbat Kamalova, Nukus (Karakalpakistan) - I agree with everything we do.
Andrea Gleiniger, Zurich / Berlin (Switzerland / Germany) - Mainly, I would like to give it more space and time. I recall to have read that it is alarming if a person mourns longer than a certain amount of weeks. What a madness, what a callousness it is to pathologise grief! In the midst of this turbo-mobile (working) life this seems to me to be a very huge danger. Internet blogs that revolve around this topic prove that this is a question that bothers people – especially in times which lack reliable, generally valid rituals and conventions. Currently (autumn 2014), an advertisement for the German Hospice and Palliative Care Association (‘Deutscher Hospitz- und PalliativVerband e.V’.), an association committed to dignified end-of-life care, can be seen on cinema screens in Berlin. It says: ‘Dying. 1000 words for something we never talk about’.
Rajneesh Yadav, Bhopal (India) - Death is a paradox in our culture − an occasion to grieve a life so cruelly snuffed out by the icy hands of death or a moment, if we go by religion, to rejoice and celebrate the beginning of something more important than life itself. More often the former is the case with us, so much so that, in a not too distant past, professional mourners were hired to cry and mourn in certain parts of the country. Death is inevitable, foreordained and as sure to follow as night follows day, but we almost never seem to be ready to accept this as reality and move on with life. The incessant rituals associated with death only serve to prolong the pain and interrupt the flow of life.
Rafael Hernández Espinosa, Texcoco (Mexico) - Sometimes death in this society can have extreme appearances: on the one hand, a very banal side, for example in movies or in popular music that tells stories of drug violence; on the other hand, a very profound side, for example when very famous and important people die. Probably there is need to discuss and reflect the topic of death from a more social and humanistic perspective.
Veton Rruka, Prizren (Kosova) - Nothing for the moment. I think in our culture we are doing the right procedures that are relevant to our culture and tradition.
Domingos João Pedro Bernardo, Luanda (Angola) - Of course, death is a topic that irritates. When someone dies, we also learn that we ourselves are mortal – and we reflect on the fact that we might die next. But I anyway think that it's important that we confront ourselves with the subject of death and talk about it.
Mukhabbat Kamalova, Nukus (Karakalpakistan) - In the past, I was scared of death. Today the topic doesn’t evoke any particular emotions in me. I am prepared to die, but only in old age.
Andrea Gleiniger, Zurich / Berlin (Switzerland / Germany) - I am in a state of mental approach, i.e. I increasingly think about the meaning of existence, and of finiteness.
Rajneesh Yadav, Bhopal (India) - When we talk about a relationship with death, we experience it in two ways: one is the feeling that it evokes thinking about one’s own death, and the other when we actually face it vis-a-vis the people we love. Talking about the first, my relationship with death has been in a constant flux. It has aroused different feelings at different stages of life − in childhood a bugbear, in adolescence a curiosity, and at this ripe age, maybe, a bit of both plus the anxiety for the near and dear ones one will leave behind. In terms of the latter, no matter how lightly we talk about it, as we all sometimes do, the crushing and devastating effect of it cannot be denied, and no matter how many times you actually face it, this effect only magnifies; you never fare better coping with it than the last time. There is one silver lining though that I have experienced through my personal tragedies and unfortunately there have been quite a few more than to anyone’s liking. Every time it strikes, and especially in cases of unnatural and accidental deaths, the question is raised where to go from here, bringing life to a screeching halt; however, that unyielding force called life does find its way like a flowing water around rocks in the mountains. The ones who were indispensable, irreplaceable, somehow get supplanted and life limps back to normal − well, almost. We cannot discount the lingering emotional void altogether, can we?
Rafael Hernández Espinosa, Texcoco (Mexico) - My personal relationship with death is intense since childhood. I have mixed feelings regarding the issue, especially with the idea that our existence and consciousness are finite. However, on a more reflective level I like to raise the idea that before life there is a similar state of inexistence that may be analogous to the state of death, where time becomes quite relative.
Veton Rruka, Prizren (Kosova) - Whether we want it or not, death can come in a day or a moment. We must therefore be prepared to face the Lord. We must not forget that one day we will die and that we have to do good deeds in this life.